Saturday, October 01, 2022

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North Haven Historical Society Celebrates Grand Reopening July 17

When the decision was made in late 2019 to close briefly for upgrades and repairs, no one suspected the North Haven Historical Society (NHHS) would be preparing to celebrate its grand reopening nearly three years later.

"[We] thought it would only be brief," NHHS Board Member Marisa Hexter told the Courier this spring. "We wanted to refresh displays, get new flooring and paint, and generally change some things around to make it all new and inviting."

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit early in 2020, work at the town-owned North Haven Cultural Center came to a screeching halt. The state and federal government ordered all non-essential activities come to a stop, and that included the work at the historical society.

According to Hexter, the building was built in the 1930s as a library and "everything really did need to be updated." While the roof was replaced prior to 2019, newly completed renovations include the installation of new flooring, custom-made molding, and plumbing repairs.

Now NHHS is ready to welcome the public back with a grand reopening celebration on Sunday, July 17 thanks to a sponsorship from M&T Bank. The event features a flint knapping and printing press demonstration, antique cars, an ice cream truck, and, of course, exhibit tours.

"Since the renovations, we are proudly displaying more artifacts, protecting them in the best way possible, along with securing the building and its contents for the future," Hexter said.

Included in the new exhibits is a collection of Quinnipiac artifacts. North Haven's first inhabitants, remnants of the lives of the Quinnipiac people have long been found along the riverbanks throughout North Haven, and NHHS has served as a repository for them. Thanks to a partnership with Southern Connecticut State University's Professor William Farley, however, the artifacts are in the process of being curated and a sampling will be on display.

Other new exhibits include a collection of yearbooks and memorabillia from North Haven High School, early sports uniforms from North Haven based-teams, a display of greeting cards manufactured during the 19th century at the G.S. Vibbert & Co.'s Clintonville Card and Novelty Company, and photos of historic properties.

Member of the Board of Directors and archivist Sue Iverson noted that the celebration will also include a bit of theater.

"There will be a person role-playing Thirza Mansfield, a North Haven woman who murdered her husband and was incarcerated in Old Newgate Prison," Iverson said.

Mansfield, a notorious prisoner at Old Newgate Prison, was convicted of striking her husband three times in the head with a small broad ax on July 25, 1824. She was swiftly arrested, tried, and found guilty just a month later on Aug. 27.

In addition to exhibit tours and historical reenactors, the reopening will also offer tours of the North Haven Garden Club Bicentennial Garden. The garden, established in 1976, is located behind the Historical Society Building. It, too, recently received a face lift with the installation of a new fence after the original boxwood border was cut back due to disease and eventually removed by North Haven Public Works.

NHHS celebrates its grand reopening on Sunday, July 17 from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 203-239-7722 or email

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